Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Farmer’s Wife

          I once had a dream of becoming a farmer’s wife – just a farmer’s wife.  Somewhere in the back side of my mind were lofty dreams of a big, two-storied colonial house stationed at the end of the lane.  White columns at the front added to feelings of grandeur in my mind.   Black and white cows grazed the pasturelands, up to their knees in lush, green carpet.  Rows of corn and soybeans, laid out in symmetrical curves plowed their way into the furrows of my brain, and I experienced contentment just thinking about it all.
          That first glimpse of what would become our farm is firmly recorded in my memory.  It was like a dream materialized.  The farmer I was getting ready to marry had the same dreams and values that had been so important to me for so long.  As he and I walked through the wheat fields and orchards, we knew we had found our home…the white colonial house with the columns…the cows grazing in the front pastures…corn, soybeans…the whole package.
          Along with our dream package, we found work – lots of work.  We arose at 4 A.M. , extracted the white gold from the cows, baled hay, chopped silage, plowed fields; and we watched sunsets, listened to mocking birds, and counted the ducks and geese as they came home for the winter.  Such moments provided a balance that helped to strengthen our partnership.  I was the farmer’s wife I had always wanted to be.  I cooked, I sewed. I preserved fruits and froze vegetables, hauled grain to market, fed calves, helped haul hay – all those things farm wives do.
          Leisure moments were sparse, but we didn’t mind; we could see the end of the rainbow just over the next hill!  The synchronized partnership worked; we believed we would see that pot of gold if we continued to work at our dream.
          Decades passed.  Years of drought began to take their toll; fields, usually green and lush in June, took on the appearance of October after the first frost paralyzes growth.  Year after year it happened…brown fields and pastures…high prices for feed and fertilizer…low profits. Bit by bit we felt our life blood draining; we were falling into a great chasm of helplessness.  Hope and optimism, generally steadfast in farm people, fluctuated daily.  The dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
          We had to sell our farm, the cows, and the pecan orchard where they grazed – but we are among the fortunate ones.  We were able to keep our home and the surrounding acres.  We still listen to the mocking birds; we drive down the same lane every day. We watch the sunrise and sunset from the same perspective—or do we?
          We did all we could to achieve our dream.  We worked, we prayed, we manipulated, we struggled.  Man and nature’s coordinated efforts were more than we could withstand.  There is no regret; no bitterness.  No longer young, I still wonder how it might have been.  But then, that’s the material from which dreams are made.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Remembering Mama

     Mama became a part of my life late- but once she did, it seemed odd to think of ever having existed without her.  For me, life was never the same once I met her.
     She was my idea of human perpetual motion.  I was constantly amazed at the amount of energy she expended.  Mama had developed though the years, a little running-kind-of-walk that set the pace for everything she did.  She expected us to possess the same level of energetic ability.  Though she was three times our age, she could do more work than all of us put together.  Sometimes when we became tired and had to stop a task, she just kept going!  It was all right for us to stop and rest for a while; she just didn’t need to!  Her day began early – always with a bath, full dress, and make-up; none of this bathrobe and slippers business for Mama.  From that beginning point, her day never stopped. She must have gotten tired, but it was never obvious to those around her.  Even when she sat to rest for a while, her hands were working:  mending, sewing, doing needlepoint, shelling peas, peeling apples.
     In my opinion, Mama could do almost anything – except learn to drive.  Several people tried to teach her, but were never successful.  At first, I felt that I had to compete with her, but I soon realized there was no such thing!  She made it perfectly clear that she wasn’t into competition.  She did things for us and with us simply because she loved us, thus eliminating the need for competition.  If she could do something better than we could, she simply taught us her skill – if we wanted to learn.  Out first recollection of each other centered on our love for stitching and sewing.  We sat and sewed and talked for hours when I was a student at Winthrop and she was the house manager. Our conversations ranged from her love of God to the proper way to peel a cantaloupe.
     She was a believer in doing things well – or not doing them at all.  As a result, she was an excellent seamstress.  Her creations were often works of art.  Perfection was her password.  Many times I have heard her say, “That just won’t do”, and she would take all of it out.  It didn’t make any difference whether it was her stitching or my stitching. The seams and final touches were always exquisite – bits of lace, or smocking, or appliqué – all hand done and just perfect.  She especially enjoyed sewing for children, and would spend hours doing the handwork on a garment for them.  A dress made by Mama would always make our eyes light up.  It fit perfectly, had all of the right finishing touches, and we felt special every time we wore something she created.  And nothing pleased Mama more than seeing one of us wearing one of the dresses she had made.
     After I married her son, I always looked forward to Mama’s visits.  She maintained a place of her own, so she had a life other than just her children.  Her visits were fairly infrequent, but they were always intense.  When Mama was in the house, things happened!  She could never stop working as long as she knew there was something to be done.  She did more work in less time than anyone I’ve ever known.  In our farmhouse, there were always things to be done. Summer brought an abundance of vegetables to be canned and frozen, fruits to be preserved; and Mama knew exactly how to engineer such projects!  She just couldn’t rest as long as she knew there were apples on the trees, berries on the terrace, or fabric in the sewing cabinet.  In the evening, we patched the knees or seats of pants, began a new sewing project (or finished an old one) or sometimes we just sat and snapped beans to be frozen or canned the next day.
     It always amazed me how much Mama could gear down for Sunday.  That was the Lord’s Day and no work was done when she was around.  She was a devout lady who loved God, and the subject of work on Sunday was definitely not up for debate.  Most of Sunday dinner was cooked on Saturday; the sewing machine was folded up and tucked away; the house was cleaned and readied for the Lord’s Day.  Clothes were pressed, shoes shined and set aside, and everything was put in order before going to bed on Saturday evening.  Sunday morning with Mama was spent in church.  Sunday afternoons were used for leisure conversation, long afternoon naps, and observing nature from the porch.  She held the secret of God’s plan: the Sabbath was made for man’s renewal, not man for the Sabbath.
     Mama’s frugality was the eighth wonder of the world.  She had lots of practice though.  Widowed at the age of forty-six with four young children and few marketable skills, she not only survived, but sent all four of the children to college.  She learned along the way how to use two small pieces of fabric and stitch them together to make a designer’s dream.  She could cook dinner for six from practically nothing.  And she must have known a dozen different ways to make a gourmet dish from corn meal – some of which I never learned to enjoy.  She taught me how to cook foods I didn’t know existed:  fried blueberries, eggless fruitcake, liver mush.  She taught me homemaking skills that my home economics education professors would not even touch!
     When I think of Mama I recall the thirty-first chapter of Proverbs.  Who can find a virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies.  She was quite a lady.  She never let me forget that I was a chosen one.  I never let her forget that I loved her before I loved her son.  We met while I was a college sophomore and she was my housemother.  She introduced me to her son who has been my husband for fifty-four years.
     I never cared much for mother-in-law jokes!

A Godly Woman is….

     The Bible gives specific instructions for becoming a good wife and mother.  It isn’t an easy task to follow the rules, but God promises that the consequences are worthwhile and rewarding. A 1910 quote by G.W.E. Russell says,” The goodness of a home is not dependent on wealth, or spaciousness, or beauty, or luxury.  Everything depends on the Mother. “   God’s instructions on how to be a good mother and wife are in Proverbs 31:10-31. One cannot even come close to achieving God’s directives   without diligence and constant prayer. 
The following characteristics apply to a Godly woman:
1.       She is virtuous (verse 29), and Godly (verse 30)
2.        She is a good wife:  trustworthy (verse 11),  supportive (verse 23),  and shields and protects her husband (verse 12)
3.       She is at the top of God’s list (verse 29)
4.       She is of great value (verse 10)
5.       She is rare (verse 10)
6.       She is industrious (verses 13, 24, 27)
7.       She feeds her  family well  (verses 14-15)
8.       She is a business woman (verses 16 and 24)
9.       She is healthy and strong (verse 17)
10.   She works long hours (verse 18)
11.   She does volunteer  work (verse 20)
12.   She takes care of the physical needs of her family (verses 15,21,27)
13.   She keeps herself attractive (verse 22)
14.   She is not stressful  or anxious (verse 25)
15.   She teaches her children (verse 26)
16.   She is kind (verse 26)
17.   She is energetic and always occupied (verse 27)
18.   She earns the respect of her husband and children (verse 28)
19.   She gives good advice (verse 26)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Visiting the Old House

     The walls creaked and moaned when I lived there. The sturdy timbers expanded and contracted according to the temperature. With no “artificial” heating and cooling, they were at the mercy of the environment.  Standing stately and proudly by the side of the road, the old house has seen many generations enter and leave the front door.  And such a fine old front door it is – beveled floor length glass that gives a view of the long front hall with heavy walnut wood surrounding the glass.
     The doctor’s family lived in it first.  An old country doctor, he was one who went to visit his patients in a buggy, knew them by their first name, and took care of them from the time they were born until they died.   The herb garden at the side of the house provided many of the remedies he prescribed for his patients. The remains of it exist to this day, producing the same remedies – if someone just knew what to do with them.
     What fun it must have been watching that old house being built.  It was the finest, biggest, best built in the community.  In those days, the community had its own high school, a general store, post office, and a party-line informing the people of important happenings among themselves.  The old party-line telephone still hung on the front hall wall, bearing witness to days long past!
      Big rambling rooms, each with a fireplace of its own for warmth, allowed the family to enjoy living inside.  Lots of windows, big windows were included.  Bay windows, beveled glass windows, plate glass picture windows, and diamond shaped windows added interest to the rooms. There was only one bathroom, and having one at all, for its day, was unusual.  It had a big four-legged bathtub and a frosted glass window. There were mirrors over the mantels, marble hearths, a walk-in pantry, a butlers’ pantry, built-in china cabinets, fancy chandeliers -  but no closets.  Big over-sized armoires were used in those days so there was no need for built-in clothes storage.
     Broad pine boards, finished to a high gloss provided flooring – even in the kitchen.  Plastered walls extended into ten foot ceilings; summer days rarely got hot inside the house because of those high ceilings and cross ventilation.
     Summer in the old house was fun when it was first built.  Built in the edge of virgin trees, it was the perfect setting for a walk through the woods.  Rabbits, squirrels, deer, opossums, and hundreds of different kinds of birds were common. Cool breezes caught by open windows, wide eaves, and a front porch, a side porch, a back porch – all worked together to produce a Southern atmosphere, a Southern summer never to be forgotten by anyone who ever lived within the walls of the old house.
     The doctor built his office about twenty-five steps from the front door; the same sturdy timbers were used.  Shelves for storing the big brown bottles of medicines were made from single twelve inch boards of heart pine. An examining room with plenty of light and fresh air was constructed in grooved boards, naturally finished.
     The doctor and his wife lived to be old.  Their children moved away, and the old office became a storage building.  The grand old house geared down, taking a respite from noisy, growing children, but retaining it dignity and esteem.  The generation passed on, and the old house opened its doors to other growing children, to other generations.  They came – and they went.  The house was bought at times by people with high hopes and dreams of returning it to its grandeur – but they came and they left.  It needed money and time, and expertise – but none of the owners seemed to have it, so –they got by, but never restored the old house to its original beauty.  It was no less  home for its owners; it no less housed joy and happiness for its inhabitants; but still the house itself seemed to cry for help to all who saw it.
     Then finally, people came and saw the potential in the old house; they loved what they saw and decided to do something about it. They went to work, and it again sits proudly – restored and stately - by the side of the road, proclaiming to all who see it the history it has experienced.  I am glad someone loves it now.
      I once lived in the old house.  It holds lots of memories for me.  I learned the value of hard work and the joy of helping on the farm along-side my Daddy.  I went to middle school and high school while there; I started dating; I left for college and came home for breaks and summer vacation there; I got married and left, returning for Christmas or Easter or birthdays. The major events of my young life occurred in the old house.  It is a permanent part of me.  I’m so glad it’s still there!   

Friday, September 17, 2010

God's Unconventional Solution

     I sat in the amphitheater watching the ceremony.My two young sons stood proudly around the tribal campfire waiting their turn to be tapped into one of scouting's most honorable groups: The Order of the Arrow.  Their uniforms were neat and looked store-bought new.  I knew better.
     Just weeks earlier, we had taken stock of their scout uniforms in preparation for their stay at Camp Old Indian.  To my dismay, nothing fit. In other families with two sons, there may have been hand-me-downs, but with twins, there are rarely hand-me-downs; these two boys were no exception.  Everything they tried on was either too tight or too short, with the exception of one uniform which they wore every week.  Two uniforms wouldln't be nearly enough.  Between the two of them, they needed at least six or eight.
     I saw absolutely no way to buy those other uniforms.  The farm we had bought years before was fast slipping from under our control.  Years of drought and high interest rates had taken their toll. There just wasn't enough money to go around - certainly not enough to buy new scout uniforms.
     So I began to pray, "Lord, I really need those uniforms.  This is to be a special time for our boys. Help me to get the money for the uniforms somehow." I didn't say anything to anyone - not even my family.  I knew that Don would have sold a cow to get the money if I had told him about it.  I just told the boys to get everything else packed and ready to go- and I prayed.  I looked for extra ways to earn money- and I prayed.  Nothing seemed to be working.
     The weeks passed, and it was three days before the troop was to leave to go to camp.  Still no uniforms. The telephone rang on the morning of the third day, and another scouting mother was on the line.
     "Opal," she said, "I've just been getting Mark's clothes ready for camp.  He has outgrown everything, and I had to go buy him more.  I think the old ones will just about fit your boys.  If you want them, I'll send them to the scout meeting tonight."
     I had prayed for money, and got uniforms without even going shopping! They were clean, pressed, and ready to go! I found it hard to believe that my prayers had been answered by a lady I hardly knew.  But that's the way we are.  We pray for something and then we're surprised when our prayers are answered. I opened the box of clothes that night and found uniforms practically new - not six or eight, but twelve.  They were leftovers from Mark and his older brother, and they just fit our boys.  Some of the uniforms had been stored for several years, and "by chance", that scouting mother I hardly knew had decided to clean out closets--"by chance" for her; God's plan for me!  God's resources are unlimited; ours are finite. Our solutions are orthodox; God's solutions are unconventional.
     Since that day, there have been many times when God revealed to me his ability to supply our needs.  There has never been a time when an answer to prayer was more obvious.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Remembering the Dogs of My Life

     Chipper was the first that I remember.  We had just moved from town to "the country" and Daddy consented to allow us to have a dog.  He was a cute little terrier-type thing of unknown parentage, and we adored him.  My brother and I had a playmate with whom we could romp and run through the woods at the back of our house.  But alas, one day he escaped our attention, wandered into the highway in front of our house and was hit by a car.We were devastated.  When Daddy got home from work, he found all three of us (Mom, my brother, and me) bawling like calves abandoned by their mamas.  Daddy wasn't really attached to the dog and he thought we were silly; it was not silly to us.  We were broken hearted!  It was not long after that when an older lady in the neighborhood gave us another dog.  She assured my brother that he was an excellent rabbit-dog.  My brother liked to go rabbit-chasing, so that was all he needed to hear. The animal (I don't even remember his name, so that tells how important he was to me) was white with black spots and the lady told us he was a "damnation" dog.  She thought she was telling us he was a dalmation.  It wasn't too long until we all agreed with her; he had to go!
     After Don and I were married 54 years ago, we started our own collection of dogs that has continued until today.  The first was Thunder.  He was an Alsation shepherd, given to us by some friends, and was already an adult when we acquired him.  He died of heart worms.  The next was a puppy named Kaiser.  He was a beautiful animal, another Alsation. But he was killed while he was still a puppy, by a neighbor driving too fast on our farm road.  We were heartbroken.
     Next came a succession of shepherds.  Joey was the first.  He hated delivery men in big trucks.  He once chased the gas delivery man up on the top of his vehicle!  Then, Duke came along.  He was a wonderful watch dog.  When Don had to go on active duty with the National Guard, he stayed in the house with me; I always felt safe.  Juneau lived with us next.  She was an Alaskan malamute; a beautiful animal, loving and strong, and kind.  She was mother to many beautiful puppies in her lifetime.
     Then, Donna decided that she wanted a dog. So, Sam was her basset hound. She didn't give him the attention he needed and we finally had to give him away.
     The Labradors were the next in line.  Noel was the first.  She was a Christmas present to Don, a chocolate lab whom he loved.  She was presented with a big red bow, and for all of her life, she could do no harm.  Of course, she chewed a hole in the bathroom wall, chewed the facings off  the windows  in the sewing room, and was just generally bad.  But Don loved her! She was lying under one of the pecan trees and was struck by lightning.
     The first of two Shermans followed Noel.  They were both black labs. Don was working at the restaurant when Sherman One came to him highly agitated, barking to the top of his lungs, and would not give up until Don went to see what the problem was. When Don responded, our house was on fire. Sherman prevented it's being a total loss.  Sherman Two was Don's favorite of all his dogs.  He was a loyal companion until he died of old age.
     Now we have Liza Jane - so named because her black and white coat reminded us of Liza Jane Doolittle in My Fair Lady.  She is a rescue dog; part wire-haired terrier and part Boston terrier.  She was rescued from an abandoned house in cold driving rain without shelter and food. She adores us and we are overly fond of her. I could write a book about her.  She's getting old, and I want her to live forever.
     The last one is Puddles.  She's a little solid black cocker spaniel with a priceless personality, adorable and kind.  We found her in a ditch on the side of the road and she just hung around until we couldn't turn her away.
     Not a single purebred in the bunch, but we loved them all.  Dogs have a way of grabbing on to your heart and holding on! They become a part of you and you never forget them.

Rules for Bringing Up Children

In child development/parenting  class, my students kept urging me to give them some rules for bringing up children.  These are the ones I developed.  I tried to abide by them with my own children, but they will freely tell you that I certainly didn't always practice what I preached.

Being short or young does not make a child a lesser person.

Behave toward your child, and treat your child, with the same consideration and respect you would your best friend.

Never do for a child what he can do for himself.

All behavior has consequences.  If at all possible, allow a child to suffer (or enjoy) the natural consequences of his behavior.

Before you punish a child, be sure it isn't your fault!

I never hurts to tell a child how you feel - positively or negatively.

Loving and spoiling are not the same.  "Spoiling" is giving a child too many things, or doing for a child those things he can do for himself.  "Loving" is unconditional - warts and all- just like he is.

You can give a child too much, but you can't love him too much.

The Education of Jennifer

A True Story: names have been changed:
     Jackson found it difficult to read a complete sentence without hesitation.  His writing skills were below grade level.  He was a mediocre athelete- loyal in reporting to practice, diligent in his efforts, but still mediocre.  However, as I sat in the observation booth watching him, I felt a trememdous sense of pride in his ability.
     The child development/parenting classes where I was teaching, and at that moment observing, were for juniors and seniors.  The  high school students enjoyed the class.  Because of learning so much about why little children behave as they do, the older students often learned a lot about themselves in the process.  In addition to learning developmental skill patterns of children and parenting skills for adults, the students had the opportunity to work with fifteen three-to-five year olds brought into the child development center.They had the sole responsibility for planning and executing activities for the youngsters.While one third of the high school students worked with the children, two thirds of them carried out structured observation. As their teacher, my position was to remain in the observation booth and evaluate the student workers. I tried to allow the student teachers as much freedom as I possibly could in handling problems as they arose; however,I was always available if they got in trouble.  We had only one rule in all of my classes, and that was a simple rephrasing of the Golden Rule:  treat each other the way you want to be treated.  Whether we were dealing with each other as teacher and students, or working with the little children, we practiced that directive.  I have always believed that mutual respect is the only way to maintain order in any classroom, and the Golden Rule says it better than any rule I ever could have formulated.  The high school students were always treated as adults; they treated me with utmost respect, and discipline was never a problem.
     Jackson was one of the students who had chosen to take my class, and he had attended for a full semester.  His skills in working with the children had progressively improved until he now felt secure enough to be in charge of one of the learning centers alone.  We watched and listened as he directed activities, encouraged the children, and praised them appropriately.  As I listened, I recalled the shy young man who first entered my classroom just weeks earlier and realized how much he had changed.
     A particularly precocious four-year-old was in the learning center, quietly drawing and interacting with Jackson.  She looked up quite unexpectedly and said, "I don't like you, cause you've got black skin".
     Students around me gasped, shocked that a child would make such a statement, yet understanding  all the while the honesty with which a four-year-old speaks.  The group looked at me in unison, as if to say,"Well, aren't you going to do something?"  I sat very still awaiting Jackson's response.
     Very calmly, Jackson smiled at her and said, "Well, that's all right.  You've got white skin, and I like you just the same."
     The two returned to their art project, and the conversation that followed left us with a sense of love and brotherhood seldom felt.
     "Where'd you get your black skin"?
     "Well, I've just always had black skin."
     "No, you haven't!  Did't you used to have white skin?"
     Jackson laughed.  "No, I was born this way. When I was a little-bitty baby about this long (he measured with his hands) I had black skin."
     "No, you didn't!"
     "I did, too!  Honest! You were born with white skin, and I was born with black skin."
     The drawing continued for a few minutes longer with Jennifer seemingly deep in thought.  Then--"May I draw your picture?"
     Assuming his most "macho" position, Jackson answered, "Sure, does this look o.k.?"
     Jennifer smiled, and picking up a black crayon, drew a circle on the paper.  She very lightly colored the circle, drawing some eyes, a nose, a mouth.
     Suddenly, her mouth dropped open, her eyes opened widely, and she practically screamed, "Oh, my goodness you've got black ears."
     Jackson laughed again and responded, "Of course I do. And you've got white ears."
     She finished drawing the exaggerated black ears and looked up at Jackson's hair, seemingly seeing it for the first time. Very shyly, she whispered,"May I feel your hair"?
     "Sure you can, if you'll let me feel yours."
     And there they sat -he stroking her long silky tresses, and she patting his closely cropped curls.  They sat there for what seemed an unusually long time, staring at each other and allowing their differences to be thoroughly explored.
     She went back to her drawing, making sure that each curl was carefully placed.  When she finished, Jackson asked,"May I have my picuture?  It looks just like me!"
     Jennifer smiled and handed it to him,  Then suddenly she climed on his lap, threw her arms around his neck, and squeezing him hard, whispered, "I love you.  You are my very best friend."
     "And I love you too, Jennifer.  You'll always be my friend, too."
      There were no dry eyes among those observing that scenario.  We had watched a miracle unfold.  The emotion of the moment was overwhelming.
     As I sat in my classroom that afternoon, long after the halls were quiet and the sounds of youth had evaporated, I recalled the incident.  Maybe, just maybe, the Golden Rule had made an impact on Jackson and the other students. Maybe, just maybe, life-long learning had taken place.  That, after all, is what teaching is all about.
     In a short twenty minutes, perhaps Jackson had succeeded in changing a little girl's whole concept of prejudice.  He might have shouted angrily at her,"That's o.k. I don't like you either."  But he didn't respond that way.  Through his love for children and his tolerance of child-llike behavior, he just may have brought about life-long changes in Jennifer's attitude toward others.  For one day at least, he taught her the real meaning of unconditional love, the love that Christ has for us, His children.    I love you just the way you are - no matter what you say, what you do, what color you are, what you wear, how you look.
       How fortunate Jennifer was to have met Jackson.

Visiting Aunt Flora

My Daddy was a person who liked to stay in touch with his siblings, and as a result, we visited them often when I was a child.  I loved going to see his sister, Aunt Flora, because that’s where my cousin Betty Lou lived, and it was always so much fun to go there.  To begin with, Aunt Flora was a great cook.  She always cooked “dinner” at noon time, and it seemed to me that she served the proverbial multitudes.  There were always so many people to feed, because she provided lunch for all of the farm workers as well as anyone else who happened to be there.  Fried chicken, roast beef, and farm-grown vegetables on the table made the meals outstanding.  And she made wonderful pies!  Nobody before- or since- made such good corn bread. She fried so much chicken; there were always lots of “crumbles” that Betty Lou and I always were allowed to eat. She always had snacks for us that were available while we were playing too.  At the back door, there was a deep well where water was drawn by a windlass and bucket with water so cold that it tasted as if it came from the refrigerator.  I was always fascinated as to how it could be so cold since the water was coming out of the ground!
The front porch was covered by vines that provided day-long shade, and on the porch was an old-fashioned swing that was wonderful.  It would extend out over the yard when we really got it going, and jumping out at that point was great fun!  We were reprimanded for it, but we sometime disobeyed!   Big green rocking chairs were available for the adults, and after the noon-day work was finished, they were often occupied.  Just outside the door, Aunt Flora had a water garden in a tub – except it was not called a water garden at that time.  She just said they were her water plants.  I thought it was “neat” because I’d never seen anything like it. The blooms of lavender and purple and white were constant all summer.   
The farmyard provided all sorts of interesting things:  wagons on which we could climb, bales of hay piled high enough to make a mountain, animals of all sorts.  Some of the most interesting of the animals were the peacocks with their fan-like tails as big as I was, the most beautiful blue and green iridescent feathers spreading high and wide into the sky. I loved them! I didn’t particularly like the geese however.  They were mean!  When we were outside, they chased us and pinched the backs of our legs.  No amount of running or screaming helped.  In fact, that made it worse!  The cows and calves were fun.  The cows were kept for fresh milk and Aunt Flora churned milk to make butter and buttermilk.  That too was fascinating to me.  How that milk could turn into butter by just moving it up and down with a stick was unbelievable!  Of course, there was a little more to it than that!  Mules were kept to pull wagons and machinery.  They all had names and were revered as working members of the farm.  There were soft furry cats and kittens all over the place scurrying around the barns, working hard to keep the mice away.  More often, they just curled up in the sun.
Uncle Frank had a car- a coupe, I think it was called – that had a rumble seat; and he let us ride in it occasionally.  The wind in our hair and face was wonderful.  It made us feel free!  We didn’t get to ride in it often, so when we did, it was a real treat.
I loved to go to Aunt Flora’s house.  It always felt good to be there.  Betty Lou still lives in the same place, and I don’t see her nearly often enough.   

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remembering Teaching

I was never content or happy teaching anywhere else.  Not everybody would agree with me, but I thought Wren was the perfect place to teach.  So I stayed there 23 years.  It was far enough away from home to prepare my mind for the transition I had to make between being a wife and mother and becoming a teacher; then when returning home, I had time for the opposite to take place. 
I loved the homemaking profession.  I really think that the disintegration of the family began about the same time that home economics was removed from the curriculum.  It wasn’t “just cooking and sewing”, as so many referred to it as being.  It was so much more.  It dealt with family, children and their development, management, finances, nutrition, parenting skills, home decorating, entertaining, and helping to maintain a pleasant home atmosphere.  Becoming a good homemaker is an admirable goal, and the homemaking teacher was the facilitator at one time.  It’s sad that today’s students don’t have the privilege of participating in such a program.
Wren was the ideal place for a home economics program.  I was supported by the administration and the community.  The students were respectful and for the most part, enjoyed learning.  There were camping trips and square dances and cook-outs; we had a student organization that encouraged leadership and participation in contests that enabled students to develop positive self esteem.  We had a group of adults who met monthly to learn and practice homemaking skills.  A child development program was established to teach developmental skill patterns for children and parenting skills for those who would become parents.  We had 15 children with whom the students worked; it’s hard to learn about children without children! Students with all levels of ability participated in the classes.  It was a good program and I loved teaching in it.
My Philosophy of Teaching
I believe that teaching is an honorable profession. I believe, that in the hands of educators, is cradled the future of America.
I believe that it is more honorable to teach students than it is to teach subject matter.
I believe that I should teach my students by methods that will enable them to retain as much knowledge as possible.
I believe that I should instill in my students the realization that the establishment and maintenance of a home is the most important profession in the world, because as the home goes, so does our nation.
I believe that it is my duty to help my students become aware of the fact that the family is still the most important institution in existence today.
I believe that it is only through education that we will be able to correct the ills of society that plague our nation and world.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remembering Daddy

Daddy would have been 101 years old on September 13.  My memories of him are vivid.  On the day my brother was born, I became Daddy’s girl, and I remained that way as long as he lived.  My mother and I were the only two girls he had.  A few years after he died, I wrote some words that captured the picture of Daddy that I will always keep in my memory.
“The white metal swing sits still under the water-oak tree, attached to the frame of an old swing set once used by all of the grandchildren.  It’s rarely used now.  Somehow it doesn’t fit - or suit- anybody any more.  He used to sit in it at the end of an afternoon in the garden.  He sat in the middle of the swing, both arms across the back of the seat, gently pushing forward and backward, never really moving his feet off the ground.  Dressed in overalls and brogans, always with a hat or billed cap, he’d just sit, staring into space or holding a hose and watering a few plants.  I used to wonder what he was thinking.  Often he would sit until the sun went down, just enjoying the cool breezes that were always present on the top of the hill.  If we drove up while he was sitting there, he always broke into a grin, called us over to sit beside him for a minute, always commenting about how his garden was growing or what I’d been doing that day.  We always pushed the swing harder than he did, but he never said anything about it; just sat there, swinging along with us.   The swing sits still and silent now.  The breeze pushes it occasionally, but it’s not much fun now that he’s gone.  No one sits there anymore.”
David now owns the swing.  He refurbished it and hung it on his covered patio. I’m glad somebody still cares for it.
And in October, 1991:  “How Daddy would have loved this baseball season!  I can see him now!  He always wanted the Braves to win-and this year they’re doing it.  His eyes always would light up when he talked about the World Series.  And I always thought that to him, the “Series” was fall’s one saving feature.  He wasn’t much of an autumn person -always got a little down- but when the team he was pulling for won the series, it made his winter a little shorter.  And in the spring, it was time for baseball again! I wish he could’ve experienced this year’s series, because he really loved the Braves. They were always losers while he lived.  But maybe he has seat this year-- in the dugout with them!  After all, they are winning!”
My Daddy was a good man, a good father, a good grandfather, a good friend, still remembered by many.  He never had riches or fame.  He worked hard all of his life in a textile mill; but the work he really loved was farming.  He loved the land and being able to tend it.  He also loved his church and the community in which he lived.  And he loved me. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Visiting Harbor Island

It’s not hard to find. If one gets to Beaufort, the destination is within reach. The most distinctive part about the island is the smell of the salt marsh. Perhaps that would be true anywhere along the coast, but the smell of Harbor Island is different to those who love it! The expanse of the Atlantic, the activity of the shrimp boats, the beauty of the dolphins arching their way down the shoreline, the Shrimp Shack just outside the gates—all bring one to the edge of paradise known as Harbor Island. Sun and sand and the smell of sun-tan lotion are a given. There’s no hustle and bustle. There’s no stress. There’s nothing that must be done. Just a screened-in porch facing the ocean, a rocker, and the sea breeze on an unbelievable October day - and one experiences the mode of relaxation seldom reached. There’s no commercialism, no noise, no loud parties, few cars, only bicycles and walking, people saying hello to each other even though they have never before seen each other.

Wildlife abounds: gulls, egrets, sandpipers, pelicans! Alligators live in the inland waterways and make an interesting excursion as long as adequate distance is practiced. Turtles nest along the water’s edge. Turtle watchers search for their nests and guard them with the diligence of a sentry. Turtles return every spring to the very beach where they were hatched decades ago and lay their eggs before returning to the sea. Survival of the species depends upon the care given to the hatchlings, and humans determine that survival to a large degree. The location of the nests is protected by wildlife legislation and guarded by the “turtle people”.

A local seafood company is just outside the gates. Shrimp boats are regularly arriving with fresh flounder and shrimp. The just-out-of-the-water taste is rare and satisfying. The Shrimp Shack provides a delicious shrimp burger if cooking dinner is just not an option. Eating-in is a choice: picnic tables and benches on a screened porch. Friendly people who get to know you quickly let you know that you are a part of the island family- even for just a short period of time.

Shopping is available, but not on the island. Grocery stores and sweet -grass baskets and fun shopping are all within reach. Even tea rooms and delis are near, but not on the island. Quiet and peace are the only amenities available without leaving the security of the sandy beach.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Visiting Calvary

Calvary is such an apt name for it. For it is there that you indeed will be put in touch with Calvary; it is there that hundreds have had their first encounter with the Christ who died and now lives. You may be a bit surprised to see the little white church located on the side of Highway 178, out in the country. It’s been there since the 1940’s, and has been a beacon in the community since its beginning. When it first started, it was a little non-descript flat brick building of one room that would seat about 100 people. There were no rooms for special groups or classes. When the curtains were drawn, which separated the room into sections, everybody could hear what everybody else was saying; if one speaker became too vocal, the others had to listen to him too. On Sunday morning, after all the classes were finished, everybody gathered together for prayer and singing and worship. And after church the folks stood around and talked, because their Sunday dinner was already prepared at home. They were in no hurry to beat everybody else to the restaurant! Lasting friendships were made on Sunday morning - friendships that are still intact today.

Summers were spent getting ready for, teaching, and attending vacation Bible school. There were lessons about Jesus and getting to know Him; games and contests were played until late in the afternoon or evening. There were always trays of cookies and a brand-new tin tub full of lemonade, made with real lemons! The week terminated with “graduation” and a church-wide picnic with everything imaginable to eat!

In the fall, preparation began for the Christmas program. Little children and adults dressed up in bathrobes and blankets depicting Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. Everybody was on his best behavior and dressed in Christmas outfits. Some of the spoken parts were forgotten; some were expressed with passion and skill. The music may have been on tune or off, but it was the celebration of Christ’s birthday that was uppermost in the minds of the people. All of the children got a present and some fruit. Everybody left with an uplifted spirit and joy in their heart.

The little church grew in size and number, while not changing its aim and purpose. Today the new building has an ample sanctuary, lots of rooms for teaching, modern restrooms, and even an elevator. It still has vacation Bible schools and Christmas programs and outreach programs to witness to the home-bound, elderly, and sick. Their mission program will challenge that many bigger churches. The gospel is still preached; the minister broadcasts his sermon over a local radio station. The people still love the Lord; and the majority of them practice what they preach!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Visiting the Farmers’ Market

Farmers have a unique profession. They feed everybody –no exceptions. Without farmers, no one would eat! There are dairy farmers, grain farmers, produce farmers, all shapes and forms of farmers. The American farmer, if allowed -and compensated to do so- could easily feed the whole world. He has the knowledge and the ability. Farmers are independent, yet dependent: on the weather, on their own ingenuity and creativity, on hard work, and on faith - not necessarily in that order!

Farmers’ markets are found all over the world. If a farmer has surplus food, he is going to either give it away or sell it. And sometimes that amounts to about the same thing. Farmers generally sell their produce very inexpensively. Not only does one get good food and fresh merchandise if he frequents these markets, but he comes away saving a great deal on his food budget. And it’s fun to go there!

Farmers’ markets come in all sizes. There are one-farmer stands; there’s the pick-up truck by the side of the road; then there are the co-operative markets. Some of the co-op markets are quite diversified – but then, so are farmers! The market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is one of the largest this writer has ever visited. One can purchase just about any farm product he can imagine. Even cedar branches and beauty berries (for decorating) are available; nuts, shelled and unshelled; live plants for transplanting in your garden; honey and syrup; farm-made cheeses; fried apple pies; entrees for dinner; meat for the freezer; and handmade crafts including furniture and rugs. Strolling down the wide corridors of the indoor facility is not only a feast for the eyes, but for all of the senses. One hears folks selling their wares, food sizzling on the grills, trucks moving in and out of the booths. The smells are tantalizing: food cooking, fresh citrus and other fruits, fresh pine and cedar, chocolates cooling on the marble slabs, gardenias in buckets, pungent bales of straw and hay for rabbits and horses. All sorts of little tidbits are available for tasting, and folks are encouraged to “take a bite”. The smoothness of the furniture and fabrics provides the feel of quality to the shopper.

For the farmer, or the wanta-be farmer, going to the farmers’ market takes on an entirely different aspect. Food products must be harvested, cleaned, and packaged. Scales must be procured. Change in a change box must be assembled. Bags must be found. The truck must be loaded. The alarm must be set early in order to arrive at the market place by 6-6:30A.M. Often, this means that spouse and children do the selling while others are at home continuing to tend and harvest the crops. It takes several hands to sell and package a pick-up full of sweet corn, several boxes of tomatoes, and a crate of string beans. Customers get to know the farmers, which ones have the best produce, and they become regulars – and friends, sometimes forever!